Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thought I'd Share What's Going on Today

As I typed in the date into my journal just now – April 29, 2014 – I became queasy. It’s not that I was startled, of course I know what the date is, but just seeing it, I guess, makes it real. I got queasy yesterday too.
I decided to take today off from work. I’d have been less productive that usual. I’m lucky I have the flexibility to do that.

Your mom usually comes over but this year decided to stay home. The past two or three years it felt important to be around people. But this year I want solitude. I think I will take metro to one of the museums and stare at beautiful and interesting objects. I’ve thought about fasting today too. I haven’t had breakfast yet so that is still a possibility. Not sure why I thought of that but it did.

I’m glad its cold and rainy today, not warm and sunny like it was four years ago. The weather on April 29, 2010 was perfect, mid-spring, mid-Atlantic weather. It reminds me of September 11, 2001, which had perfect pre-autumn, mid-Atlantic weather.

After the boys get home we’ll let go purple helium balloons into the sky like we’ve done each year.

I haven’t cried yet but I did get a choked up yesterday driving home from work.

I think I’m going to call my brothers and sister and tell them I love them. I haven’t told them that in a while.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gun Play

Bang!

My mind told me that what sounded like a gunshot could not have been a gunshot. It was loud, that was for sure, but didn’t quite sound real. Then I recalled stories of people reporting real gunshots: “it didn’t sound real, more like a pop, pop, pop, sound.” But in the nano-second it took my brain to construct that thought the sound of kids giggling started. Someone sitting behind us must have slammed a book closed or two books together. Something like that. So we ignored it with barely a pause in our conversation.

It was a Thursday late afternoon as we rode a yellow line Metro train to Crystal City. A few months earlier Lori won a $175 gift certificate for the restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton. I also had a lingering matter to attend to since Amy’s death – an old retirement account from a job she had in Florida before we even met. To close it out required a special signature guarantee. My bank happens to have a branch across from the Ritz-Carlton where I could get this done. Admittedly this was an odd juxtaposition of events, but after nearly four years I thought I’d save a trip from Maryland to Virginia and finally take care of this chore once and for all.

Bang, bang, bang.

That was definitely not a book slamming shut. Lori and I looked at each other and noticed others looking up. There was the same giggling from behind. It was inconceivable that someone had actually been shot so I turned around and saw about 5 or 6 kids, barely middle school aged, maybe younger, goofing around.

Bang, bang, bang.

One of the kids, a boy maybe 8 or 9 years old, ran up the aisle, holding straight out in front of him, a clear plastic with green neon trim cap gun. Bang. Bang. Bang. He shot at no one in particular as he ran by. Except for the playful colors, it looked like, to me at least, a large pistol. Then another boy, a little older, chased after him. Bang, bang, bang, and more laughter.

I haven’t seen a cap gun in years. I can’t remember if I had a cap gun or not, maybe a brother did, but I remember unrolling the paper strips of caps on the sidewalk and pounding them with a hammer. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! A friend of mine had a silver metal cap gun that used the plastic ring caps type of ammo. They were better and louder than the paper roll kind. As kids, we’d run around in the peach and apple orchards in south Jersey where we grew up and play all sorts of war games and such. We also played with bottle rockets, and BB guns, and set plastic model planes on fire. I remember one hot summer day when we were about 14 or 15 goofing around and pointing a cap gun at my friend’s younger brother and pulling the trigger. The tip of the barrel was maybe an inch away from his bare chest. Bang! He recoiled in pain. I first thought he was joking but then I noticed the black speckles and pinkish-red powder burn on his skin.

Our train car was now completely silent except for the ongoing play gunfire and laughter. It was early rush hour and we were headed the other direction so our metro car wasn’t full, but it was also not empty. I looked around again this time for a parent. These kids were having fun but I was not, Lori was not, and by the look of the others on the train, they were not. Someone really should tell these kids that here and now this is not the best place or time for this kind of play.

Bang, bang, bang. I looked back. Again looking for a parent and seeing none I thought maybe I should get up and say something. Sure, boys will be boys, but this is not 1970’s rural south Jersey. This was 2014 urban D.C. But I didn’t get up and say anything. And it wasn’t so much my sympathy with “boys will be boys” and that I played similar games when I was a kid. It was because these boys were African American and I am white. I could get up and gently explain that perhaps a Metro train car is not the best place to play this game. I could gently suggest that unfortunately, but perhaps, in this post Trayvon Martin world, some person with a real gun who was more nervous from their play and skin color would get involved. Or maybe, and perhaps my real fear, if I stood up, the parent who was there all along, whom I hadn’t seen, would stand up to tell me this was none of my business.

We came to a stop and the kids jumped out onto the platform. Bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang. They sprayed pretend bullets at the stunned people waiting to get on our train.

I wondered how the story in the Washington Post would go if a Metro security officer shot one of these kids dead. Black kid, white officer, toy gun, shooting. No good comes of this.

They hopped back on as the doors closed and Lori decided she wanted to get off at the next stop and get on another train.  I hesitated. It sounded like a rational move. But I convinced her otherwise. We were running a bit late and I while the gunplay was nerve wracking I was also nervous I wouldn’t get to the bank in time. I also didn’t want to be one of those white men. And I’m not even sure what that means exactly: “Those White Men.” I’m not a racist, I reminded myself. At least I don’t want to be a racist. And being scared of black kids? That’s not me, right? That’s George Zimmerman and others like him. That’s really not me.

But I was scared.

The train pulled away, there was more laughing and more bang, bang, bangs.

I looked around again and caught the eye of an older black woman. We held each other’s eyes just long enough to silently share our respective fear and concern. She pursed her lips and subtly shook her head as if to communicate to me that she too thought this was wrong and that it was okay for me, a white guy, to not be happy by all this. At least that is what I wanted her to be silently communicating to me because then I would not be one of those white men. I also sensed her uneasiness with what to do. And was that a little bit of shame I detected in her for also not getting up? I’m not sure if that was her shame, or mine, on her behalf, or what. But regardless of our imagined, projected, and real emotions, instead of anyone getting up, we all just decided to do nothing. We all sat there with our individual fears and prejudices, while these boys had fun laughing and playing with their toy guns.

The kids eventually did get off the train and we did too. I got to my bank branch in time with all the paperwork I was instructed to bring only to learn that I also needed a death certificate and a recent account statement. Of course I did not have a death certificate with me, not this time since the instructions I had didn’t include that detail. And since the account was frozen nearly 4 years ago when Amy died, I had an old statement, not a recent one, that is, within 90 days.

Sure, it is my own fault for waiting this long. But the psychic energy level required for me to get through Amy’s death paperwork is quite high. And now I was going to have to make more calls to banks, get more documents and do it all over again.

I met Lori at the restaurant. She had walked straight there from Metro while I went to the bank. We ordered a bottle of champagne. Not to celebrate, but to drink.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

More On Time

Can you believe it’s already April 10th?
I know, it’s like, ‘what happened to March?’
This year is flying by. 
It’s crazy. And before you know it it’ll be summer.
Oh, please. I am not even ready for that.
Tell me about it.
Well, it’s almost 5 o'clock, I gotta run.
5 o'clock? Geezus! How’d it get to be 5 already?

***

I’ve written about Time before but it’s been a while. A long time I think.

Time has this way, you know? Time creeps up on us and without any warning. I went for a good long hike with my friend Jim this past Saturday. But my left knee, the one I had surgery on a couple years ago, is still a little stiff.  And Time is to blame for that. After nearly 48 years of Time, it's crept up on me. At least on my knee.

It’s funny how Time creeps up on us, because Time also flies. Time flies too fast and a little faster each year it turns out. We may not say exactly that “time flies” because that is a bit too cliché, but Time does get away from us. I had several things on my to do list yesterday and I just couldn’t get them all done. It was because Time just got away from me.

Now for my kids, who are 11 and 8 years old, they have all the Time in the world. They have so much Time, that they can literally waste Time. And for you literal/figurative cops out there, yes, it is literally true. They toss time around like some billionaire carelessly tossing around money on yachts and women. In fact  and I swear I am not making this up  some days they actually claim they are bored.  They will come up to me and say something like “there’s nothing To Do.”

Nothing To Do? I try my patient best to help them, half wondering if doing so plays right into their mockery. I do confess to pulling a similar stunt on my parents. But that was back when there really was more Time. Now, as we all know, there is less Time. It surprises me that scientists aren’t studying this phenomenon because surely there are significant impacts to our understanding of the universe. I know, from experience, that back in the 1960s and 1970s there was more Time. Now there is less Time. Yes, literally. And at some point in the future, there will be less and less Time until we completely run out of Time. Environmentalists warn us of "peak oil" but what about "peak Time?" Running out of time is far worse than running out of oil. Of course, when I die, I will have completely run out of Time. But for a few things, especially on my To Do list, I have already run out of Time or, that Time has passed.

In Genesis 1, God created everything in 6 days Time. And looking around, I can see that it was, well, kind of a rush job.  Now, I don’t want to offend anyone, and surely there is plenty of awe, wonder, and splendor, but creating Everything had to be a big job. The biggest, I would think. And just look at us humans. Clearly there must have been some corners cut to get this all wrapped up in 6 days. I wonder how it all would be if God took an extra day, or two, to really get us right. I wonder if God thinks, 'next Time I'll spend an extra day or two on those Humans.' Which would be great because then we’d all have an 8 or 9-day week. And I could really use that extra Time.

I better wrap this up. I’ve already spent too much Time on this. And I can’t believe it’s already Thursday. It’s like Wednesday just disappeared!